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Dentons Launches ‘Accelerator’ to Change Practice of Law
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Summary: Dentons  has created a subsidiary to create new technology that it hopes will transform the practice of law.

According to Bloomberg, Dentons, an international law firm, announced that it launched a legal tech “accelerator” in Silicon Valley that hopes to evolve the practice of law. NextLaw Labs is based in Palo Alto. It will begin offering various technological products over the next several weeks.

  
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Although NextLaw is an independent entity, it is wholly owned by Dentons. Other law firms have internal research and development departments and partnerships with consulting companies and tech companies, but NextLaw is calling itself the first research and development company that is actually owned by a law firm. The structure of the company will give it the chance to raise funds through capital markets if needed.

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Bill Henderson, a member of the advisory board as well as a professor at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law, said, “I guarantee you that there’s going to be other examples of la firms trying to” recreate NextLaw’s model. Henderson studies the business of law and legal technology. He said that owning a separate company gives the firm the chance to invest in technology while complying with rules against splitting fees with non-attorneys.

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Dan Jansen, the CEO of NextLaw, said “The story begins inside Dentons. Their strategy is to grow, integrate and reinvent…I’m the reinvent part.” Jansen previously worked with the Boston Consulting Group, and is finishing his last term as the mayor of Telluride, a resort town in Colorado where he met Joe Andrew, Dentons’ global chair.

Andrew

Andrew



Although Jansen is not an attorney, he has experience in consulting and disruptive technology investments. In 2013, he was responsible for selling a company that create online advertising models for virtual worlds, casual games, and social networks.

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Jansen and Andrew noted that the legal industry needs changes, and Dentons was on board to produce three types of products: existing technology in need of investment, technology co-developed for clients, and technology developed for attorneys. Jansen commented, “We’re going to have the largest law firm in the world to not only generate ideas, but also to test them.” According to The American Lawyer, the company also plans to eventually sell its products to other firms.

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He also said that several major announcements would be made in the next few weeks, including one about an app that has been developed that will help clients control risk by collecting data from field staff’s mobile devices. NextLaw is also planning a partnership with a major technology entity. Jansen said, “We want to have them all lined up first, before we announce anything. I wanted to have a real flow of, frankly stories, in the pipeline.”

Dan Martin Katz, an associate professor of law at Michigan State University, is also on the advisory board. Katz writes about legal technology, and said that NextLaw has a competitive edge because it can test products within Dentons, which has over 6,000 lawyers. Dentons partners who come up with ideas for new products have “an R&D arm available to vet their idea and try and bring the product to market,” he added.

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It will be essential to choose products that have the right buy-in from Dentons’ partners, however. Jansen said, “I can go to a Dentons practice area leader and say, ‘Hey, you should try this new product, and, by the way, you own it.’ We think it’s appealing and so far it has been.” Although Jansen did not describe the size of Dentons’ investment in NextLaw, he said that the firm was “generous” with office space, IT professionals, and communications. NextLaw is seeking project managers and investment professionals who can watch its portfolio. According to Legal Tech News, the concept has been in the works for the past two years. Andrew said, “The market has talked about Big Law and New Law, but we want to be Next Law.”

Source: Bloomberg

Photo credit: legaltechnews.com, YouTube.com (Andrew)



 

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